I recently visited LA for the first time ever. I visited a friend over the Columbus Day weekend, and, while apparently three weeks to a month is plenty of time for me to make sweeping, authoritative observations about entire countries, I don’t feel like five days qualifies me to say anything about LA. So, I’ll just compare it to New York, because traditionally NYers and LAers pretty much define their cities in opposition to each other.
Before visiting, I feared I’d want to move to LA immediately, because I love sunshine and warmth and hate winter and darkness (feared, because moving to LA would mean getting a car and driving for the first time in a decade). But it turns out, I’m not as much as a sun person as I’d thought. My skin doesn’t lie, apparently. I kind of thought that everyone in LA would be as sun-phobic as NYers are – I mean, LA is the land of eternal-youth obsession after all. My friends in NY would sooner attack their delicate facial skin with razor blades than sit in direct sunlight without a high SPF. We are shade seekers. But in LA, it’s all, ‘Let’s have brunch on the patio – no need for an umbrella! Aren’t you hot in that sweatshirt and wide-brimmed hat? Don’t you feel insane in that veil and poncho?’ And then there was all the driving – hours and hours of driving with direct sunlight just plowing through the windshield. I felt like an ant under a magnifying lens. I could hear myself sizzling and feel melanomas and sun spots springing up from deep in my dermal layers. I could feel the thin skin around my eyes and lips shriveling into dry, crone-like crepe.
So, there was that. But LA is really beautiful. Just postcard pretty, everywhere you go. And all the people are really beautiful, too, which is annoying. It doesn’t feel urban, though – more suburban. I always think I hate crowds here in NY, but being in such semi-deserted big spaces while clearly still in a city made me uneasy, like maybe someone had sounded an alarm and I hadn’t heard it.
Socially, LA is more outgoing than NY – I’m pretty sure I can say that definitively, even based on my limited experience. I mean, twice while I was reading in public, a total stranger came up to ask what I was reading and introduce themselves. And they weren’t even creeps, or crazy people! Never before in my life has that happened, and actually, I liked it. I wish I could always make friends without having to take my nose out of my book and initiate eye contact. Otherwise, people do ask you what you do in LA and expect you to have an answer, which I hate, but they do that in NY, too.
Money-wise, rent isn’t that much less in LA, but you get a lot more for it. My friends out there mostly live in gorgeous, sunny spaces with washer/dryers. I thought food and alcohol was considerably pricier, but maybe that’s just because I’ve lived in NY long enough to know where and where not to go. Thrift stores are much, much cheaper, and apparently, they don’t have bedbugs out there yet.
Overall, I think that unless you have a career-related reason to be in LA (which I’m sure most people do), it’d be better to live in Southern California, somewhere more remote. There are definite advantages to being right in NYC, rather than outside NYC, but I don’t think LA itself is that much of a draw – it’s more the general atmosphere of the region. NYC is a cooler city, but LA is more livable and a prettier place. There, that’s my (terribly original) sweeping pronouncement on the subject.
Here are some pictures! I went a little overboard playing with the Picnik editing tools: